Sacramento Kings point guard Rajon Rondo put on an impressive show for his old fans in Boston on Sunday with 14 points, 15 assists and six steals. But it came in typical Kings fashion, a loss.
That used to be Celtics, fashion, too. But not anymore. Boston’s 128-119 victory was its fourth in a row and ninth in the last 10 games, and pushed the Celtics to a season-best nine games over .500. Since the trade that sent Rondo to Dallas back in December 2014, removing the final key connection to the 2010 championship team, Boston has gone 62-50.
Meanwhile, Rondo got himself booted out of Dallas by a quickly fed-up coach Rick Carlisle, and while Rondo’s put together a solid statistical season with Sacramento, the Kings are as dysfunctional as ever at 21-30 and with coach George Karl apparently awaiting his firing.
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After Sunday’s game, Rondo was full of praise for his former club and his last coach in Boston, Brad Stevens, who has Boston boasting the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. Rondo said, via WEEI, 93.7 FM:
“They play well as a team. They may be 13, 14 guys deep. You never know who’s going to get it going for them each night. You look at the box score and someone is leading them in scoring different every night. So they’ve been playing well as a team. Brad has these guys rolling, believing in the system and they’re playing very unselfish.”
If Rondo was angling for a way back to Boston, and he probably wasn’t, well, that’s obviously not going to happen. Isaiah Thomas, averaging 21.4 points and 6.6 assists, is an All-Star for the first time in his career, and is signed cheaply through the 2017-18 season. Marcus Smart is a capable, young guard who’s been good off the bench.
Rondo also mentioned that he continues to stay in touch with some of his old teammates.
“I sent Avery a text after the big shot he made the other day [against the Cavs],” Rondo said. “My young guys Kelly [Olynyk], Jared [Sullinger]. A lot of these guys are my rookies. So it’s good to see these guys playing well. I wish them health and happiness and to continue to play and try to take the East.”
At the time, the Rondo deal came as a surprise in Boston, more than two full months before the trade deadline. While some at the time thought the Celtics could have done better, clearly now the move has proven to be a good thing Boston as it looks optimistically toward the future.
It’s Rondo’s future that seems much more in doubt. He could stay with the Kings, if he likes whichever coach is hired to replace Karl, assuming he is fired either during or after the season. Or Rondo can go back onto the market with his refreshed stats, and see which teams are willing to let him lead their team — and how much they’re willing to give him to do it.